Tyson Fury retained his WBC heavyweight crown on Saturday with a spectacular knockout from Deontay Wilder in the 11th round as her trilogy bout delivered a boxing classic.
In an epic battle in front of 15,820 fans at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, both fighters were knocked down multiple times in a gripping competition filled with improbable twists and turns.
Fury appeared to have gained the upper hand after beating Wilder in the third round, only the 35-year-old from Alabama responded with two knockdowns that the English champions desperately held on to in the fourth round.
But it was the bigger, heavier Fury – who landed the cleaner, more damaging punches – that ended the stronger one, and the champion had once again defeated Wilder in 10th place with a right hook.
Wilder reacted bravely to this knockdown by wiggling Fury in return.
But the brutal, energy-draining nature of the fight and the relentless physicality of Fury challenged Wilder in the 11th century.
With the American exhausted and on the ropes, Fury landed the winning combination.
A right uppercut jumbled Wilder’s senses before Fury rammed a right hook into his opponent’s temple that barely knocked the challenger passed out on the canvas.
“Such shots end careers,” said Fury. “I just hope he’s fine. Because he suffered a lot of punishment tonight.
“Never doubt me,” added Fury. “When the chips are down, I’ll always deliver.
“I give him the credit for the victory. He’s a tough man – he fired some big shots tonight.
“It was a great fight tonight like every trilogy in history.”
– Multiple knockdowns –
Saturday’s fight was the third part of a bitter rivalry between Fury, the self-proclaimed “Gypsy King”, and Wilder, the clumsy knockout specialist who is considered one of the sport’s most destructive punches.
Fury had knocked Wilder out in the seventh round in their second fight 20 months ago after the two men shared a controversial draw when they first met in Los Angeles in 2018.
Both fighters entered the ring with their heaviest fighting weights ever on Saturday, with Fury weighing in at 277 pounds and Wilder at 238 pounds.
Wilder’s camp said the extra crowd was meant to give her fighter a quick knockout in the early rounds.
But even though Wilder started aggressively, working Fury’s midsection on the first two rounds, he was unable to find the precision to hurt the elusive Fury, who, in contrast, repeatedly scored with his right side.
The fight appeared to have swung decidedly in Fury’s favor in the third as he landed a left hook and pair of right uppercuts to knock Wilder down. The American finished the round dazed and on the ropes while Fury was ready to go to the kill.
But Incredibly Wilder rallied on the fourth round to bring Fury to the canvas twice, once with his dreaded straight and once again with a right hook.
This time it was Fury who appeared to be in danger, but the champion was able to clear his mind and survive.
Fury then rebounded to dominate the middle rounds and repeatedly stunned Wilder, who showed remarkable resilience in the face of a sustained attack.
But just when it looked like the breakup could come at any moment, Wilder called another rally on lap nine and shook Fury again with a huge right hand.
But momentum shifted back to Fury on the 10th when he opened up with a devastating exchange to knock Wilder down. Again, the American found the strength to fight back and wiggled Fury towards the end of the round as fans roared their appreciation.
Wilder’s resistance was broken once and for all on the 11th round when Fury’s devastating final combination turned into a gripping battle.
– Two warriors –
Fury, who improved to 31-0-1 with 22 knockouts, announced afterwards that he wanted to show his respect to Wilder after the fight but had been turned away.
“We fought like two warriors in there,” said Fury. “And I went to shake his hand and said, well done, and he said, ‘No, I don’t respect you’.
“I thought to myself, ‘How can you say I cheated when you know in your heart that you were beaten fairly and honestly?’
“Is he a bad loser or what?
“But I’ve acted like a gentleman my entire career and that’s all I can do.”
Wilder, who was taken to a Las Vegas hospital as a precautionary measure, did not speak to the press after the fight.
In brief remarks, however, he admitted that he had struggled to cope with Fury’s size.
“I did my best but it wasn’t good enough,” said Wilder.
“I’m not sure what happened. I know he did certain things in training, and I also knew that when he was 277, he didn’t become a ballet dancer.
“He came to lean on me, try to rub me up, and he succeeded.”
rcw / bb / reb